Day 3 – 20 January 2018


Jogesh Mime Academy saw a growing rush on the third day of KPFF2018. The first film of the day was Bokul (The Fragrance) directed by Reema Borah which was screened in the New Fiction category. The film follows the life of thirty-year-old Raktim who has recently returned to his town. Through small yet simple dialogues the movie encapsulates the varied changes that have come in all these years, for instance, a Café Coffee Day outlet sprouting up is linked to the effects of globalization. However, the central theme runs on the disappearance of Raktim’s old music teacher and Raktim’s quest to find him. In this search he comes across three characters – an old lonely fisherman who spends his last days in the memory of his only son, a young rickshaw-puller who is bravely fighting off communal prejudice to take care of his family, and a single mother who runs her shop independently. Coincidentally, each of these characters are named Bokul – and Raktim shares their personal journeys in the narrative, that leads him to the final truth.

After a brief introduction by Kasturi Basu, Tin Sotyi (In Fact…), directed by Debalina was screened in the New Documentary segment. In Fact… is a celebration of love and togetherness with a difference; it is a celebration of the struggles to live those differences; it is an inspiration to create spreading webs of liveabilities for non-normative lives and loves. The end credits of the film garnered much applause from the audience as they showcased the hilarious and oft- misplaced reactions of the people who were shown this documentary earlier. The audience posed many questions to the Sappho for Equality team: Debalina, Koyel, Atrayee Basu, Sushmita Sinha, Sanghamitra Thakur and Meenakshi Sanyal.  How did they proceed with the admit card entries for their children when there is no ‘father’. . . a problem solved by using the childs mother’s and biological father’s name. Someone asked why there is no representation of males facing similar problems/ no representation of males. The team responded by saying that there’s male representation in the film in that there are people in the film who identify as males. Anurag, who identifies as a trans person paid a vote of thanks and said that beyond all of these divisions and nuanced differences, all of them are humans and they should be treated as such.

After a short introduction by Jigisha Bhattacharya we moved onto the second session for the day with the premiere of Amma, Meri (Mother), directed by Tarun Jain in the New Fiction segment. Subtle truth forms the essence of this intriguing short film. It explores the life of a village man, who has recently lost his father. He is now the sole bread winner of his family of four – which includes his fragile mother, wife and a daughter.

The latter discussion was led by Nakul Singh Sawhney for the New Media segment which bought several stories forth from the ground zero. It was a presentation of contemporary visual stories from Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat by Nakul Singh and Vishal Kumar from the Chalchitra Abhiyaan. For a little over a year, ChalChitra Abhiyaan has been making short documentaries on issues that plague Indians living in rural India especially Western Uttar Pradesh. From following up on the communal polarisation leading up to the Uttar Pradesh elections, to demonetisation, to on ground reports on the Bhim Army, the arrest of Chandreshekhar Raavan and the emergence of new Dalit leaders, these documentaries have helped ChalChitra Abhiyaan build a strong community. The idea is to look at local issues that concern different marginalised communities, in their voice.

The first short film in the series was Muavza (Redressal) directed by Nakul Singh. It was released on the fourth anniversary of the Muzaffarnagar-Shamli massacre. It looks at riot survivors who still haven’t received compensation as yet and how they’ve struggled to piece together their lives. It looks at the long-term impact of the riots which is often not talked about. This was followed by, Savitris’ Sisters at Azadi Kooch directed by Nakul Singh. It is a film on the recent Azadi Kooch yatra in Gujarat led by Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Sangathan and Banaskantha Dalit Sangathan.   One year after the public flogging of Dalits at Una in Gujarat, a call was given for the ‘Azadi Kooch’ yatra (march). The yatra travelled through several towns and villages in the Mehsana and Banaskantha districts of the state. The main demand was the handing over of land which was allocated to Dalits on paper, but has been illegally occupied by people from dominant castes for several years. During the yatra, a whole range of other socio-political and economic issues were raised; the issue of gender justice was the most prominent. The film looks at two emerging Dalit women leaders, Laxmiben and Madhuben, and their participation in the yatra. The final part showed a few video stories on the Bhim Army. Even recently after the anti-Dalit violence in Shabbirpur and the subsequent protests by the Bhim Army, Bhim Army was vilified by large sections of the mainstream media. It was evident that the local media and administration were attempting to deflect attention from the Shabbirpur violence on to Bhim Army and paint them as some sort of violent vigilante organisation.  The videos were an attempt to break the false perceptions that were being created by sections of the mainstream media.

The third session started with the Nakul Singh’s introducing the new documentary, 1984: When The Sun Didn’t Rise’ directed by Teena Kaur Pasricha. The film talks about the biggest massacre in the history of independent India; the anti- Sikh 1984 riots. It is a touching tale of interwoven personal narrative. The central theme largely hints at negotiating violent memory by the people residing in the Widow’s colony in New Delhi. Teena Kaur also spoke about the urgent need to revisit and document a genocide. If we don’t talk about our history, who will? The film includes first-person accounts of women who lost their husbands in 1984, and are attempting to come to terms with their loss in different ways.  A paradoxical blend of vulnerability and resilience remain the focus of the narrative. The film also showcases the how institutionalized drug addiction has eroded the emotional, mental and financial health of the entire community. It paints vividly painful portraits of trauma and grief, skillfully highlighting how personal tragedies affect political alliances and leaves a mark on the conscience.

The film Ek Inquilab Aur Aaya: Lucknow 1920- 1949, directed by Uma Chakravarti traces the lives of two women—Sughra Fatema and Khadija Ansari—of Firangi Mahal, an orthodox Muslim household in Lucknow. It documents their aspirations, personalities and poetic ambitions in the face of orthodoxy and patriarchy.

The screening was followed by a talk with Uma Chakravarti. Dr. Chakravarti spoke about why she felt that this story needed telling and how the documentary itself serves as a way of preserving history and memory. In response to one of the questions, she said that the authorial voice used for Sughra Fatema is all based on actual evidence: words written by Fatema herself.

After a short break, the audience reassembled for ‘The Emergency, Then and Now’ the keynote lecture delivered by Dr. Chakravarti. She began with the political and social conditions prevalent at the time of the Emergency, and the demand for a radical transformation in the late 60s—the student movements and teacher struggles. She went on to talk about the ways of protest during the Emergency, particularly that of the women, as well as the complete muzzling of the press at that time. After the Emergency came the euphoria. Calling for the release of the so-called ‘political prisoners’ became the demand of the electorate, which has never happened before. But this euphoria did not last. The role of the middle class has diminished greatly, one can see a lack of challenge to the status quo. In a country where laurels are given to the ‘loudest’ person, society can essentially be divided into four Indias: Metropolitan, Rural, Border and Adivasi. There is massive state sponsored and endorsed repression, particularly using sexual violence and a large scale pandering to the international and the multinational. In the face of this, there is need for ‘oppositional imagination’, supportive action and a vision for the future. Dr. Chakravarti addressed the issue of what one can do next during the Q and A session. She reiterated that one needs to be optimistic. Critical and creative engagement is vital.

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